Well it has been a crazy past week for us here at the Iowa Storm Chasing Network! Typically this time of year would be down time, however, weather never sleeps, and neither have we. It all started last Sunday. I was on vacation in Wisconsin, Ben McMillan was enjoying time at home with family, and Dan Auel and Brennan Jontz were working on their to do lists. Then by 3pm in the afternoon, thunderstorms began to develop across central Iowa. Dan and Brennan decided to head out and chase after these storms, with no big hopes in mind. They would quickly realize after looking at radar, that one of these storms would then shortly produce a tornado to the northwest of Creston. Due to a late departure, they were late to the show. On the other end, no one was in the weather office, as were not expecting anything to develop that day, as the severe outlook was in Wisconsin. So while I was enjoying a little R&R time pool side with ISCN’s Nathan Coy, oblivious to what was going on back at home, Ben took to social media keeping all of you informed. After returning to my phone, I quickly realized what was going on back at home, so I stepped in to relieve Ben.
I thought I would be the lucky one, going on vacation and getting to go storm chasing! But if you look at the storm reports from last Sunday, The only tornado reports were from northern Illinois, and southwest Iowa. A big bubble over southwest Wisconsin, or where I was located on vacation. I was starting to think I was an anti-tornado magnet. However, I would quickly find I wasn’t later on in the week.
We are currently working on a documentary, for a TV show, which will be aired spring 2016. So on Monday, talk between our group began about the possibility of a chase day on Thursday and Friday. We all began talking logistics on where we should go, if we should stay overnight somewhere and what the chances were, and if they were good enough where we should have our film crew come. After speaking to our film crew, we decided that Dan, Brennan and myself would depart Des Moines Wednesday evening, and stay overnight Wednesday in Omaha, after we picked up Ben from the airport that evening. After picking Ben up late Wednesday, we then stayed up waiting for the day one outlook which comes out at 1am. After that came out, we then went to bed around 2am. Our film crew would then arrive in Omaha Thursday mid morning, so we were up by 9am, and we would then shortly depart for South Dakota there after.
On our way up to South Dakota, we began to look at the latest high resolution models, and were getting worried that the day would not be as good as we expected. However, as the day went on, a 5% tornado risk was then added to the outlook, which then made us feel a little better about the day. We would then cross over into Minnesota as we chased after a severe thunderstorm warning. This storm did go on to produce a tornado warning but quickly lost its strength. Dan and Brennan noticed a storm to the west that was beginning to rotate, so we made our trek back to the west, where we got there just in time to watch a tornado briefly touchdown to the northwest of Volga, South Dakota. This tornado was very brief and was shielded by rain but was still visible. After tracking this storm off to the southeast, it began to weaken and we called it a night. Pulling into Los Tulipanes Mexian restaurant at 9pm, we enjoyed a nice meal after a very long day on the road. Since Dan and Brennan had to return to work Friday morning, I returned home with them. Ben and our film crew were tired and wanted to get some sleep, so instead of getting back at 4am like Dan, Brennan and myself did, they stayed the night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
After getting 7 hours of sleep Friday morning, I was expecting Ben to show up early afternoon with our film crew so we could do some final filming. I gave Ben a call, and this is when I found out that mother nature still wanted us to be out on the road. Ben informed me that Saturday was looking like a spring like set-up and our film crew wanted to take advantage of this, and would be staying for another day, instead of leaving Friday evening. The plan was for everyone to meet at our headquarters at 9am, and depart shortly there after for Nebraska City. Brennan’s friend Isaac, who has never seen a tornado before, and has came with us a few times before, would be joining us as Dan was at a family event. After departing Des Moines at 10am, we made a gas stop in Osceola. We then headed westbound on highway 34, and then realized after looking at the latest data that we needed to go south of Nebraska City. We then headed towards St. Joesph Missouri to meet up with storm chaser Tony Laubach. Upon arriving in St. Joe, we sat down for lunch at El Maguey.
After lunch, we decided that we needed to move more to the west, so we headed towards Seneca, Kansas. This is where we stopped and waited for an hour for storms to develop. To our west, storms were firing along the cold front, which were not worth going after as they were elevated, high precipitation storms. Eventually we started to get a feeling that along the warm front was going to be a bust. However, we were in great company, as other storm chasers joined us. Eventually we all began to write the day off as a bust. Since we had to head north to go back home, I suggested that we head north into southeast Nebraska into a better environment to see if we would have any better luck there. As soon as we crossed over the Kansas/Nebraska border, Brennan pointed out a few towers that were beginning to develop to our west. These towers quickly grew into supercells which eventually went on to produce a tornado near the town of Elk Creek, Nebraska. We finally got Isaac a tornado.
We then needed to eat dinner so we pulled into McDonalds in northwest Missouri after 10pm. After processing all of our video and pictures and uploading them to the web, we would then depart for home around 11PM. We then arrived back in the Des Moines metro after 3 AM, all once again tired! The last four days have felt more like May instead of August. It has been a long four day stretch, but it was fun. For now, we are going to catch up on some sleep and enjoy going back and spending time with our families again! Have a great week! -Zach Sharpe